Recognizing Distress

Most varsity athletes are able to effectively manage the stressors they experience being both a student and an athlete, without any long-term consequence to their mental well-being. But sometimes the stresses become too much. Those closest to the athlete, such as teammates, friends, athletic trainers, coaches, academic support staff, and parents are in a position to notice when something is “going on” that is out of the norm for him/her. Below are some behaviours and symptoms that may indicate a psychological concern, touching on some of the more common concerns.

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of interest or participation in things he/she is usually interested in
  • Loss of motivation
  • Withdrawing/isolating from social contact
  • Irritable, edgy, impatient, argumentative
  • Deterioration in appearance and/or hygiene
  • Negative self-talk
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities previously found to be enjoyable
  • Irresponsibility, lying
  • Mood swings or lack of emotion
  • Feeling out of control
  • Physical complaints not related to sport injury
  • Unexplained wounds or deliberate self-harm
  • Unhealthy weight control practices (e.g., restrictive dieting, binge eating, over-exercising, self-induced vomiting, or abuse of laxative, weight loss supplements and diuretics)
  • Overuse injuries, unresolved injuries, or continually being injured
  • Talking about death, dying or “going away”
  • Substance mis-use

It is important to be aware of what the athlete’s typical or usual demeanour and behaviour are, so any changes can be compared, and concerns can be flagged and addressed.